PREFACE: This is not a complete list. At the time of its publication, I haven’t seen a great deal of films I wish I had seen, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or A Separation. This is, however, the culmination of seeing over 70 films from this year. It should be viewed as a time capsule of taste on this particular day at this particular moment. Were I given another week to mull this over or see more films, it might change drastically. I’m happy with how it looks, and so for the sake of my own sanity will let it stand in this form.
I’ve become more aware, having seen so many films, of my own biases. There are, I think, too many American films on this list, but that simply comes from my position as an American who studies chiefly American films. That’s not to detract from, for instance, The Kid With a Bike, which is marvelous in its own ways. My own biases also allow for choices that are deeply personal, and might make you balk unless you know the kinds of films I love. That’s one reason I’m happy with this list as it is.
I’m often asked if my lists are “Best” lists or “Favorite” lists. Well, they’re both. It’s a confetti of two sides modulated by a very precise equation. To put it another way, these are films that mean something to me. Some have emotional meanings, others intellectual. Some dazzle, some confound. Yet they are all on this list because they meant something. Sure, you can bicker about placement all you want. I invite you to. Debate these choices. They are what they are, but I feel they adequately represent the highs of my cinematic memory in 2011.